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Scream of the Banshee: Q&A with Lance Henriksen

Written by Nightfly on Friday, March 25 2011 and posted in Features

Syfy invites the Outhouse to help celebrate their 200th original movie by participating in a wide open Q&A with genre icon Lance Henriksen.

What common trait do Lance Henriksen and Syfy's original movies share?  A remarkably rich legacy of creature features is the answer.  Lance has appeared in more than one hundred and fifty films throughout his expansive career and this Saturday (3/26) helps Syfy celebrate a grand occassion by co-starring in their two hundredth original movie, Scream of the Banshee, with Lauren Holly (Covert Affairs).  This latest original movie also serves to launch Syfy's March Monster Madness, the ultimate tournament to determine Champion of the Syfy Creature Pantheon.  And the Outhouse, fortunately, got invited to share in the fun!

Lance, soon to celebrate his birthday with the release of a visually stunning biography, plays a suicidal former professor he happily describes as "a real wacko" in this bloodcurdling screamfest produced by After Dark Films.  Syfy original movies have averaged nearly two million viewers this year after previously garnering six straight months (Aug-Jan) of exceeding two million viewers for each of their original films.

The Q&A for this occassion was extraordinarily special as Henriksen's entire life and career was up for discussion in support of his upcoming biography, Not Bad For A Human: The Life and Career of Lance Henriksen (title suggested by James Cameron).  The book, to be released May 5th (Lance's birthday), is co-authored by documentarian Joseph Maddrey, with striking sketch art by an all-star lineup of comic artists; Mike Mignola, Ashley Wood, Tim Bradstreet, Bernie Wrightson, Eric Powell, Tom Mandrake, and Bill Sienkiewicz are just some of the artists offering original illustrations for Lance's lifestory (final artist lineup not yet released).  Steve Niles and Alex Lodermeier's Bloody Pulp Books will publish this limited edition gem, of which Niles reports "Every single artist I called said yes to the project straight out. I told Lance that's the power of his work. He has fans everywhere." (see official press release)

Henriksen fans are in for a rare treat in Scream of the Banshee as its director allowed Lance "free run" in creating this character he calls "crazy", "bizarre", "eccentric", and "the closest thing to comedy without making it a comedy that I could do."  When casting guns for the reclusive character Lance asked "What's the smallest gun I could use in the movie that could actually kill you?"  You can glimpse the diminutive-but-deadly handgun in the clip at the bottom of this article.

"It's the retelling of the screaming of the banshee myth" Lance explains, "my role in it is just this eccentric, suicidal kind of, fired professor who's discovered something and he's trying to - he doesn't know how to live with it and he doesn't know how to live without it. And he pays the ultimate price."  The film centers around a college professor (Holly) who, along with her students, opens a mysterious ornate box that triggers the banshee's cursed scream.  According to legend all hearing the banshee's scream are fated to die a terrible death and here the students, their professor and her daughter fight for their lives while contending with Lance's unpredictable character, Broderick Duncan. "He's a real eccentric" Henriksen reiterates, "you got to watch it. It's zany I'll tell you that."

When asked what prompted Lance's frank biography he replied, "It happened really by accident."  Continuing, "I had done a thing called Nightmares in Red, White and Blue, which was an anthology of horror films. [Watch the full feature documentary free via Hulu] I narrated it with a man named Joe Maddrey, who's a writer.  And he came to my house and said, "Lance would you do this?" You know, "Would you consider doing this?" And I like Joe so much that I completely relaxed.  And as we got into the book I said, "Joe if I can't be honest half way through this, let's stop." And he said, "Okay, if that's the deal that's the deal."  And so we started, and the more I worked on it, the more I enjoyed it. So it ended up being something that I'm proud of. You only do one, you don't do a sequel.  There's no Bio 2, you know. So I put everything into it."  Portrait by Bill SienkiewiczThoughtful, and, always generous to his fans Lance shares "we got some of the best comic book illustrators to illustrate the movies because I wanted it to be accessible to the audience(s) that I care about, which are the genre audience and science fiction audience. I'm very excited about that. It's a very interesting book.  I hope you read it -- you're going to like it."

In the biography's press release Steve Niles mentions having started Bloody Pulp Books "as a way to publish something I could sell at cons. Artists always have these really cool sketchbooks they sell, so I wanted to do a writer's sketchbook of sorts. When I read Lance's book I was so struck by the honesty of it, and the fact that he talked about the work and not gossip, it made me want to publish it... and here we are. I knew we were onto something when I started calling artists."  When I asked Lance if he plans to attend this year's San Diego Comic-Con he responded, "I can't. Only because if the crowd is too big - it's 180,000 people - it's too much for me. I tried, I took my daughter down there, my 11-year old, and all I did was spend all my time worrying that she was going to get lost, you know? Because you're caught between somebody with a sandwich in their hand and somebody, you a costume.  It's really crazy. I might go visit it one day, but I couldn't do any more than that -- just visit.  I love it, don't get me wrong, but I just - that's just too big. I'm going to be at a lot of other conventions this year, you know with the book and everything."

A multi-talented artist renowned for his talents as a potter Lance decidedly confirmed in this interview that his pottery is not for sale, "No.  I don't want to ever sell it.  I just want to make it and stack it up in the corner and look at it occasionally. And go on to the next adventure with it.  I'm just protecting that wonderful gift I've been given. You know, that I know how to do it,... I love it. I really do."  Asked about his days as a set designer he shared, "Oh yes. Yes, because I was already a painter. I used to paint murals. But I would do anything to get involved in theater. Because that was the door. I knew that was the door that had to open before I understood what it was all about.  You know there's a great distance between someone watching a movie and understanding it and feeling it, and being in it. And being in that world; it's a very big step - Huge.  Everybody thinks they could do it, but when you realize what's going on, there's a lot to learn. I had to learn a lot."  Praising the profound healing effect acting had after his chaotic upbringing he proceeded, "I attribute that to the generosity of people that are in the entertainment business because they are all struggling.  All roads seem to come to acting for certain kinds of people that have a reason for being there. They want to be seen and heard, of course, but there's more to it than that.  And so I think it's like a kindred spirit-of-struggling to find out, What is this thing? What are we? That kind of question. Those eternal questions. But in the meanwhile, I've met some wonderful people doing this."

Responding to whether or not he watches himself Henriksen answered, "No I don't. When I'm making a movie I never watch the dailies, I see the movie once and that's it. Because it's really not about that for me, it's not about the externals.  When I'm on a set, I don't want to see it, I want to be subjective in it. And so that's sort of my habit now.  I stay subjective because that's what I do, that's my career, that's my - one of my abilities. After we've done all this talking today, I'll be really sick of the sound of my own voice.  So it's the same thing, you know what I mean? I don't need to watch it because I've had the adventure. I mean for me it's all an adventure.  I don't do low-budget acting, I just do the same acting whether I'm in Jim Cameron's movie or - it doesn't matter. I try to do good work. There's no snobbery in there."

When the subject turned to his most famous & beloved television character, Frank Black, Lance ethusiastically mused, "Oh man. Oh yes, that was a three-year experience. We did 60 shows in three years. So that was a lot of shows.  And working with Chris Carter, and these great writers they had on it. I think we were a little ahead of our time at the time. Chris doesn't think that, but I do -- that it was going in a direction that, a couple more years and we would have really made a mark a lot larger than we did.  Even though some of those shows I was very, very proud of. Like at least half of them. It was a tremendous amount of work. We're still thinking that we should do a movie.  Imagine what Millennium would do with all the things that are going on in the world right now; it has the capacity to be a movie.  But yes, I loved doing it.  It changed my life because the guy that I was playing was so much more educated and smarter than I was, so I had to live up to it. And I learned a lot.  Millennium is a state of mind, it really is. It's like, I always thought of Frank Black as the greatest chess player that could take random pieces of information and string them together into a scenario that was accurate.  I never thought of him as a psychic at all.  We need people like that."

Since Millennium is one of this columnists all-time favorite tv series I had to ask if he'd kept in touch with his endearing onscreen daughter played by (then 5yr old) Brittany Tiplady, "Yes I have.  I've talked to her. Yes, she's a grown woman now. And very beautiful and she's got the same eyes. That's what blew my mind.  I hadn't talked to her in, I don't know, maybe ten years. And then when I saw a picture of her I went, "Oh my God." There she is and she's bright and she's full of life.  And yes, I was really happy about it. Because one of the things that happened was right after Millennium I had a little girl of my own. My wife gave birth.  And I remember the whole time I worked with Brittany, I really felt like she was my kid. It was a wonderful relationship. She is the most wonderful actress, I mean a wonderful child, let's put it that way. Because most of the time she wasn't acting. But she had the skill to remember all the things she had to do. But she was a great human being, of course, naturally all children are.  There wasn't - no, there wasn't a hesitant moment, you know? We all protected her so much on that set.  We never wanted to scare her, we really didn't. We guarded her. And her family were really great people. They did the same.  And so she was in a very safe environment.  I could go into children actors and the danger of giving them false attention, and then they get distorted, but it never happened with Brittany."

Considering the incredible variety of creatures Lance has shared the screen with I asked if any had managed to traverse the behind the scenes barrier to invade his real life dreams, "The one - the only one that's appeared in my dreams is the one from Aliens. Giger's version of that necromancy, that - it's almost like a tic. It's a reptilian - it's very, very much somehow attacking our core - a reptilian core.  That creature is something like a baby and tic combined, it's very frightening.  And so it strikes that core, you know, that unconscious core.  And that one I had... it scared the hell out of me. I mean, it really did."

Every actor most likely has a personal "dream role" they'd love to portray, I bet you wouldnt've guessed Lance's.  "There's a potter that lived back in the 1800s I'd like to play, out of Biloxi, Mississippi.  His name was George Ohr. He was of Russian descent, but they called him the Mad Potter of Biloxi.  I'd love to do a great character study/comedy about that guy's life. That would be my dream role. I know it's an oddball thing, but it's true. It's a true story."

Was his career's sci-fi emphasis by design? "No, it just worked out that way. If I would've been born 30 years earlier I would have been in all the Westerns. It's just the way that the industry goes.  I mean back in the day there were reasonable budget Westerns.  But here we are in an age of a lot of different kinds of fears and things.  And so you have science fiction and horror genre doing our morality plays the same way that they would have done in Westerns.  And so I really accept it, I absolutely accept it.  Because in every respect fantasy is like doing abstract paintings.  I mean, it's just the era that we're in.  Does that make any sense?"  Pressed for his favorite among the westerns he's appeared in, by an interviewer praising The Quick and The Dead, Lance offered, "Well, there's been four of them.  Appaloosa with Ed Harris -- I loved playing Ring. And before that I did a movie called Gunfighter's Moon. And then one of my favorites of all-time was with Jim Jarmusch, we did Dead Man with Johnny Depp and all of that."  He further shared, "You know, I ride really well and I shoot a gun really well. And I love the genre because I knew Rex Rossi, who was a guy that had been brought by Tom Mix to be in his Wild West show. And Rex was one of my best friends.  He taught me how to ride and do trick mounts and all that kind of stuff. And once I did Westerns I was hooked. But it was - see, it sort of was the end of the Westerns in a way. You know, there's been very few of them made. But I love them. They're morality plays.  I never wanted to play a guy who was acting like a cowboy, rather you know, play someone who had a real life and then he also was trapped into situations. So a little bit like comedy. I don't think I'm funny but I think situations are funny. And I don't think I'm a killer, but situations could force you to do things that you, you know, you have to do.  I mean, it always is, well,... to what degree. Everything in acting is about, "To what degree are you asking me to go?"

My final question ended up being the final question of the interview.  I posited Lance in an unavoidable combat with any monster showcased throughout his film career, asking which he thought he could defeat in reality if his life depended on it?  "The only one I think I could beat, one at a time - if my life depended on it - would be the Predator. Because, at least, if it was in my territory, in my domain, with the guns that I've got, I think I could hurt him pretty bad. I mean, that's the only one though.  The rest of them - when you get into metaphysical creatures, they don't play fair."

After you've enjoyed Lance in Syfy's momentous Scream of the Banshee, and while you wait to treat yourself to his beautifully illustrated, limited edition biography coming out May 5th,... find out if the rumors are true that Admiral Hackett (voiced by Lance Henriksen) finally emerges in Mass Effect 2's latest DLC entitled "Arrival."  His return to the award winning game franchise is already confirmed, but whether or not his character will finally become more than a voice on the horn remains classified.  Arriving March 29th, "Arrival" will reportedly be the final Mass Effect 2 DLC for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.  The PDLC pack will be available for 560 MS Points on Xbox 360, $6.99 on the PlayStation Network, and 560 BioWare Points for PCs.

I'd like to thank Jennifer Joseph (of The Creative Conduit) and Outhouse warlock Jude for brainstorming questions with me for this Q&A, as well as Outhouse old-timer Strict31 for reminding me to remind Lance's gamer fans to mark March 29th between important dates 3/26 & 5/5 on their calendars.  For those who've caught Banshee fever, like me, reread Jude's illuminating Q&A with Destination Truth's Josh Gates about his Banshee investigation.

Don't forget, March Monster Madness brings you the chance to vote (across multiple media platforms) for king of all Syfy creatures and collect digital trading cards featuring your favorite Syfy monsters - not to mention the sweepstakes you can enter to win monster-themed prizes!


About Syfy
Syfy is a media destination for imagination-based entertainment. With year round acclaimed original series, events, blockbuster movies, classic science fiction and fantasy programming, a dynamic Web site (, and a portfolio of adjacent business (Syfy Ventures), Syfy is a passport to limitless possibilities. Originally launched in 1992 as SCI FI Channel, and currently in more than 98 million homes, Syfy is a network of NBCUniversal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies. (Syfy. Imagine greater.)

About Lance Henriksen
Lance Henriksen is a Hollywood icon with well over 150 films to his name. He's arguably best known as the empathetic android Bishop from the Alien franchise or the intuitive criminal profiler Frank Black from the TV series "Millennium," but he has also played gunfighters and gangsters, an astronaut, a vampire, a sadistic monk, Charles Bronson and Abraham Lincoln. He's mentored Tarzan, Evel Knievel and the Antichrist, and fought Terminators, Aliens, Predators, Pumpkinhead, Pinhead, Bigfoot, Superman, the Autobots, Mr. T, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal. He's worked with directors James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Sidney Lumet, Francois Truffaut, John Huston, Walter Hill, David Fincher, John Woo, Jim Jarmusch and Sam Raimi... But this is just skimming the surface. Henriksen is a true artist – a painter, a potter and a creative collaborator who brings complexity and humanity to all of his work by drawing on real life experiences that are often stranger than fiction.

Written or Contributed by: Nightfly


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About the Author - Nightfly

A proud member of NBCUniversal's and A+E Television Networks’ Digital Media Teams, Nightfly routinely interviews producers, creators and stars of various network programs and films with a concentrated emphasis on the Syfy channel. Formally educated in Communications, Computer Science and Music, his résumé reflects more than a decade broadcasting in the fields of television and radio. With pieces routinely published at ScreenFad and Press Pass L.A., his primary areas of interest include TV, film, music, web series, comic books, fashion, pen 'n paper RPG gaming as well as various other pop-culture topics. An avid Twitter user, Nightfly supports the arts, the entertainment community, numerous charities and crowdfunding projects through his journalistic netizenship and non-partisan, multicultural-centric activism.

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